ICC news January 15, 2014

ICC mulls two-tier Test cricket

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Dravid: In principle, two-tier Test system a good idea

World cricket's custodians are to consider a revolutionary proposal to bring relegation and promotion to Test matches as a partial sop to the imminent death of the World Test Championship (WTC).

The ICC executive board is expected to consider the proposal at the next round of meetings later this month, the same gathering expected to end any hopes for the WTC due to the reluctance of broadcasters and the lack of certainty around the format of an event that was postponed from its original 2013 launch date and re-launched for 2017 last October.

ESPNcricinfo understands that the board will instead entertain the promotion/relegation plan, which will open up the possibility of nations like Ireland and Afghanistan earning their way into Test matches while at the same time placing the likes of Zimbabwe and Bangladesh on the precipice. It will be introduced on the "no disadvantage" condition that none of the current ICC Full Member nations would lose that status and its financial advantages.

Instead, the Associate nations will have the chance to press for spots at the Test match table on the basis of performance against the lower-ranked Full Members. This would provide a strong incentive for nations currently playing Test matches to improve themselves while also offering opportunities for Associates to compete at the highest level of the game.

Precise details of how promotion and relegation from Test cricket would work in practice are yet to be revealed, but the concept of play-offs for Test status every four years is believed to be one of the options under consideration. The idea of dividing Test cricket up into two tiers has been debated for some time, with various noted voices on the game expressing opinions on its merits.

In 2013, the former England captain Michael Vaughan suggested that the incentives provided by promotion and relegation would also add context and value to Test cricket, perhaps to the point of dissuading some players from fringe nations prioritising the IPL over representing their country at that time of year.

"Just imagine if New Zealand have to come to England and win one out of three Tests to stay in the first division or win promotion," Vaughan wrote in the Telegraph. "If there is a proper financial incentive to playing in the first division, like there is in football's Premier League, then players would be less likely to choose the IPL instead."

In addition to promotion and relegation, the ICC is expected to consider increasing the financial rewards on offer to teams earning the No. 1 spot on the Test rankings, for which the Test Championship Mace is currently awarded on an annual basis.

There have been an increasing number of diversions from the Future Tours Programme, as nations make bilateral agreements that flout the authority of officially agreed schedule. India recently reduced their tour of South Africa to the minimum two Test matches while adding two unscheduled home fixtures against the West Indies, while this week it was confirmed that Pakistan's series against Australia in October would be downsized from the earlier agreed three Tests to two.

The ICC has previously flagged that promotion and relegation will become part of the landscape for ODIs, coming into effect following the 2019 World Cup.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • anton_ego on January 22, 2014, 16:34 GMT

    It would be an amazing idea if this 2-tier system is used for positive intent. Its like a win-all situation. But some tweaking must be done. A solution would be to use the A-teams of the top 4 countries to play regularly with the bottom 4 countries. For example, so many quality players from India, Australia, England and South Africa hardly play any international Test cricket. Sehwag, Gambhir, Yuvraj, Phil Hughes, Ed Cowan, Starc, Ashwell Prince, De Kock, Onions, Finn and Morgan to name a few. Whilst not in national duty, why not they play with the bottom four nations? Make it a 3-tier system instead, with the middle tier competing to break into the top tier by playing regular Test cricket and the bottom tier competing to break into middle tier by playing with the A-teams of the top tier. Its a viable solution.

  • dummy4fb on January 20, 2014, 20:42 GMT

    woow perfect desion by icc to give chance for asossiat member a test chance this is spirt of the game

  • black_bird on January 20, 2014, 7:16 GMT

    What happen to big 3's when they tour outside of their own backyard?.india lost straight 9 tests, luckily escaped at saf. and engand. Boys do you still not ashamed after losing 5-0?. and australia, you lost every test at india.what makes you big team by winning a home series?.In that sense, all teams should be relegated. and will play equal number of tests home and away.

  • ZCFOutkast on January 19, 2014, 14:41 GMT

    @flickspin, surely even you must acknowledge that all those countries virtually playing and being housed by their neighbours defeats the whole purpose of the international game.

    This is all motivated by money. Rightfully India contribute the bulk of funds, they are entitled to a larger share, and now the ECB&CA realise there's no way of getting away from that but to restructure the game in order to retain a lot of revenue themselves.

    Acceding to this plan essentially kills the game. You don't need a rocket scientist to tell you that. Hence I'm proposing we shrink the game because at the end of the day, this will accelerate the death of Test cricket(by 2017). Kids won't want to pursue a sport to be second class citizens at international level, and we will all get tired of watching just a few side play Test cricket.

    So restrict it to open professional leagues, and just turn up to camp for internationals when called up! Admit it only T20&ODIs will be relevant! Might as well do it now!

  • CricketIsland on January 19, 2014, 10:46 GMT

    If there is 2 tier test cricket there should be equal chance to every team to promote as well as demote. there should not any permanent members in tier 1. otherwise keep cricket as it is. cricket is not a private property of anybody. it is a wealth of 7 billion people live on the earth.

  • android_user on January 19, 2014, 1:47 GMT

    in order to bring the associates into world class level, they can simply be given test status, FTP will ensure that they play at least 4 matches per year. so, why is there any need for a two tier system, which is unarguably going to discourage the developing test sides that would be unfairly catagorized in the 2nd division?

  • Talalthegreat on January 18, 2014, 14:55 GMT

    Well, two divisions is good. Mostly cuz it gives chance to Ireland and afg. It should be division 1: SA, Aus, Ind, Eng and Pakistan. Division 2: WI, NZ, SL, Bangladezh and zim. There should be first class games for ireland and Afg against zim and bang. Then both should be added to test cricket and it should be. Division 1: SA, Aus, Ind, Eng, Pak and SL. Division 2: WI, NZ, Bang, Zim, Ire, and Afg. If any team from div. 2 performs better and gets ahead in point system than a div. 1 team, they get promoted.

  • dummy4fb on January 18, 2014, 13:20 GMT

    I do believe expanding the Test match format to associative nations is the way forward. It's currently unfair for nations like Ireland who have improved over the years, to have players go and play for England in the pursuit of playing world class cricket more often.

  • dummy4fb on January 18, 2014, 8:33 GMT

    Australia beating England 5-0 in ashes. that should be enough for their relegation, right? Or there is no way they can be relegated? Nice thinking ICC.

  • Hawkiball on January 18, 2014, 8:09 GMT

    I grew up on cricket in the 1990s in India, realising that Asian teams were given second-class treatment as far as overseas Tests were concerned. For example, after the 1991-92 Indian tour of Australia, the next such Test series took place after eight years. Similarly, the Ashes or Aus-WI Tests were five-match series, whereas Sri Lanka would be lucky to get one or two Tests! India had to be thankful for a three-Test series. I suppose this two-tier format is only formalising such arrangements founded on the ease between a few national boards. It was always like this. Instead if boards think of quality of cricket as the criterion, then they'll do well to note that there is a gifted Ross Taylor from New Zealand, a Darren Bravo from West Indies, a Junaid Khan from Pakistan. Don't exile them with such a system: teams go through dips, and form is temporary. There has never been a sense of equity in cricket administration, so I doubt if anybody will now care in the T20 Era.